Brazilian Law determines affirmative actions to guarantee that companies hire disabled people. Real inclusion, however, demands changes both in politics and corporative culture. See more below

The inclusion of disabled people in the working environment has two main aspects. One of them is the legal one: Act 8213/91, known as the statute of affirmative actions for disabled people in companies, demands that these workers participate in companies with over 100 employees. There’s also the moral aspect: diversity and inclusion are, by themselves, important values and improve relationships and the working environment.

Some researches about the organizational environment show that the presence of disabled people improves the whole team’s quality of life. A research with industrial workers in Curitiba affirms that ‘we could see that, through working with disabled people, there’s a lot to learn, both in the professional and personal life,’ and the interviewees stated that ‘during this time working together, they learned how to be more comprehensive and patient with one another.’ There was a clear improvement in the organizational environment.

“To make it happen, we first need to change the companies’ institutional culture,” affirms Teresa Costa’Amaral, creator of the IBDD – Brazilian Institute of Disabled People’s Rights. “It’s crucial that companies prepare to invest in this. Then, the other changes will be easier,” she says.

Teresa says that the inclusion and diversity policies need to think of disabled professionals as ordinary workers, but having in mind that his condition requires some adaptations that can be easily implemented in any environment – “Even in the Carajás’ mines it’s possible to include disabled professionals,” she says. Attitudes such as exchanging stairs for ramps and having elevators with information both in braille and in sound are cheap, simple and everyone from the staff can benefit from it.

“Disabled people bear the challenge of not accepting the position of ‘poor’, of having a position in the workplace with equal rights, and of being well prepared to face work needs,” affirms the creator of IBDD. “It’s a two-way street: companies need to provide the necessary conditions to the professional, and professionals need to give their best,” she concludes.

Sinalização de acessibilidade. Crédito: Yomex Owo/Unsplash

What does the Act of Affirmative Actions stipulate?

According to IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), there are over 45 million disabled people in Brazil, the equivalent to 24% of the country’s population. In the workforce, however, disabled people represent only 0.9% of workers under contract. The good news is that this number is growing: according to data from 2016, from the Ministry of Labor, 418,5 thousand disabled individuals have a job,a 3.8% increase from the previous year.

Increasing the presence of disabled people in formal jobs is the main goal of the 1991 Act of Affirmative Actions. The Brazilian legislation determines that companies need to reserve about 2% to 5% of their job opportunities for the disabled or people licensed by the INSS (National Institute of the Social Security).  

“In the 1988 Federal Constitution, there was the innovation of the inclusion of specificities for the general labor statute. When the 1991 Act was approved, the idea was to restore people through the INSS and have them working again. That’s when the idea of including disabled individuals came up,” says Teresa. “This Act is almost 30 years old, but it hasn’t been effectively accomplished yet,” she complains.

The text says that companies with between 100 and 200 workers should employ, at least, 2% of disabled people; companies between 201 and 500 workers, 3%; companies between 501 and 1.000, 4%; and companies with over 1.001, 5%. Although fines are high (between R$2.300 and R$233 thousand for each disabled person not employed), only about 48% of the job opportunities are properly distributed.

Mulheres protestam em prol de inclusão. Crédito: Newsgraph/Wikimedia Commons

“The Act fails in one aspect. It’s worthless to save job opportunities if the company doesn’t provide equal rights. It’s impossible to have wide social inclusion if society’s vision doesn’t change,” says Teresa.

To be eligible for a Disabled Person’s job opportunity, it’s necessary to present a medical certificate, authorized by the Ministry of Labor, and to be in accordance with the Decree 5.296/2004. The disabilities recognized by the text are visual, hearing, motor, and intellectual. However, the most recent UN conventions, in which Brazil is a signatory country, reject these divisions and think in a wider manner, including overweight people and people with heart diseases.

Supported employment: an inclusion tool

Material changes in the working structure are fundamental. Including access ramps, installation of elevators with sound and adapting texts to braille are all good examples of effective attitudes necessary for inclusion. But these attitudes are for physically disabled people. Including the intellectually disabled require organizational and cultural changes in the companies.

Supported employment is one of the methodologies that focus on integrating people in this condition to the workforce. Only because of this method Carlos Henrique de Melo got a job as an administrative assistant. The young man with Down Syndrome is part of a very small group of intellectually disabled people that occupy formal jobs; considering the disabled population, only 4.9% work under contract and, out of this percentage, only 5% have intellectual disability.

“There are three main values in the supported employment methodology,” says Livia Rech de Castro, psychologist at CEESD Campinas (a non-profit body that offers support services to the inclusion of people with down syndrome) and part of the ANEA (National Association for Supported employment) board. “An interesting value is the ‘zero exclusion’. In other words, every single person is capable of working, according to their disability and their potential. Another value is planning to focus on the person; the person is the one that guides the process, that shows the life project,” she says.

“The third value is about inverting the logic of capacity and employment. First, we understand the person’s profile and background; then, we create opportunities based on those abilities.”

Grupo de trabalho de pessoas com síndrome de Down. Crédito: Sandra Stein/Wikimedia Commons

There are three steps in the Supported Employment methodology. The first one is the disclosure, which consists of understanding who the person is, their routine, dreams, desires, interests, and abilities. The second step is developing the job opportunity itself, which means to develop it based on the applicant’s information. The third step is accompanying worker and workplace to ensure that needs are met regarding material resources and staff support.

This logic isn’t exclusive to workers with Down Syndrome; it also applies to autism and psychosocial disorder, drug addicts and formerly homeless people, for example.

Range of autism in the job market

The traces of autism don’t fit in the traditional classification of intellectual disability. That’s because the term is related to a difficulty in the learning process, and some traces of autism have the opposite characteristics: in this case, autistic people present above average intelligence, but also socialization problems and issues when dealing with other people.

‘Yet, nowadays, the rights of autistic people are recognized as the rights of a disabled person,’ says Teresa. ‘The biggest problem during work is related to the social part. In a standard case of autism, there’s a difficulty to understand social rules,’ says Tiago Florêncio, a psychologist specialized in atypical behavior.  

Tiago says that, since the condition doesn’t present any physical trait that exposes it and the diagnosis sometimes only happens during adulthood, the autistic person may be considered a grumpy person, who doesn’t participate of activities or doesn’t have fun with the team, which is not necessarily true.

Premiação para pessoa autista. Crédito: National Autistic Society

‘There isn’t a standard answer to how to deal with it. It’s necessary to develop new strategies in every case. However, it’s important to observe and mitigate the reasons for the suffering,’ says the psychologist. He commented on the case of a 45-year-old adult that was only diagnosed when he was 40: “Outstanding employee, but he was always distressed due to his difficulty to cope with certain aspects of the corporative environment.”

“The autistic person isn’t flexible and values routine and following rules.  When a co-worker says that he’ll deliver the material by 2 PM and it doesn’t happen, he can’t understand the particularities that led to this delay and reacts in a bad way. These situations bring physical and emotional suffering.”

“On the other hand, they develop focus and technical competence, which may lead them to have an exemplary performance.” The areas of interest to the autistic professionals are, usually, related to technology and exact sciences.

In certain environments such as school and work, the autistic person has the right to decide if the condition will or will not be exposed to others. In case they decide not to, the person won’t be employed through the act of affirmative actions. “I believe that it should be mentioned. Everyone should know. It’s better for the company, school, colleagues, and the worker or student themselves. This way, everyone will have the opportunity to be prepared to deal with different situations that may come,” affirms the psychologist.

Content published in April 26, 2019

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